‘Shazam: Fury of the Gods’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

For ten years now, DC has tried its best to build a foundation for its comic book universe for Warner Brothers. And for a little while, it was working. They were going against the grain, they had unique directors who cared about the source material, and they cast some bold actors to fill the giant shoes. However, when the climate started to shift with Marvel films gaining popularity and the majority of the box office, Warner Brothers felt the need to compete and change the unique formula that set them apart from what so many people had been accustomed to. Different isn’t always good, but in the superhero genre, it is always welcomed. The first Shazam! film may have suffered at the box office, but it won the hearts of many comic book fans because it was a coming-of-age film. Many comic book films work when they mix genres and focus on something other than the typical conventions. 

Shazam! was a wholesome, heart-warming film because it focused on Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and how he grew up without a mother in the foster system. The importance of friendship and choosing your family weighed in the first film, ultimately creating an emotional connection between Billy and his chosen family. Luckily, the villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), and the seven deadly sins made for a simple yet compelling story in the first film. The focus was more on Asher Angel, not Zachary Levi as his hero counterpart. Director David F. Sandberg delivered on ancient lore, magic, and wonderment through a child’s perspective, setting the first film apart from other DC films. He made it unique to the genre and to the universe that Warner Brothers was slowly creating on their terms without any interference. 

Then comes Shazam: Fury of the Gods after a regime change midway through promotion and after the standalone villain film Black Adam. There were plenty of factors working against this sequel. In this film, Billy thinks everyone will eventually leave him, so he holds onto his family too tightly. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is off fighting crime at night to make a name for himself, while Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) is trying to study and make friends in college classes. Eugene (Ross Butler), Darla (Meagan Goode) and Pedro (D.J. Cotrona) have no form of character development in this film, which is interesting regarding representation. To bring in the gods of this film, the staff that was used by the wizard (that Billy broke in half in the first film) had been acquired by the Daughters of Atlas; Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). They plan to get all their powers back from the champion. 

Sadly, Shazam: Fury of the Gods felt empty because the focus was on Levi and not Angel. The jokes that made the first film so charming didn’t land in this film either. There were such strong themes about family and past trauma that could have been explored a bit more, but sadly they barely scratch the surface and service the lore of the Daughters of Atlas more so than the collective family unit. The first act felt rushed, and once they got to the middle of the film, it felt like there was nothing left to fight for. The second hour was filled with CGI creatures (that looked good), but there was so much excess. The Shazamily barely used their powers to fight together, and the action scenes weren’t that fun to watch because nothing felt believable. The first film felt grounded because of the family aspect, and that’s why it worked. You can still be gods and fight gods and make it believable. 

‘Black Adam’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The hierarchy of power in the DCEU has finally changed, but we’re not so sure about the direction it’s heading after watching Black Adam. For years fans have waited for the most anticipated Dwayne Johnson project because of how much he put into his film. He was dedicated to this character from the beginning, and he fought hard to get this film made. His heart and soul went into this project, and you could see a bit of that creep through in the final product. The one thing that has always impressed me about DC films is their ability to bring forth the lore that makes these mystical heroes/villains unique to their brand. That’s exactly what was done with Teth-Adam and Kahndaq. Johnson was right in making this a standalone film because there is much to explore. It also directly correlates to the same lineage as Shazam, which is something I was eagerly awaiting. 

In ancient Kahndaq, Teth Adam (Dwayne Johnson) bestowed the almighty powers of the gods. After using these powers for vengeance, he was imprisoned, becoming Black Adam. Nearly 5,000 years have passed, and Black Adam has gone from man to myth to legend. Now free, his unique form of justice, born out of rage, is challenged by modern-day heroes who form the Justice Society: Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Dr. Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell). The beginning of this film set the location of Kahndaq and how the people needed someone to look up to as their beacon of hope. It’s a similar narrative to Superman but presented differently. Black Adam felt a bit out of place as they were trying to integrate him into society, and it felt like he was in a different movie than the rest of the Justice Society. 

Even though Teth Adam’s backstory is interesting because of the lore and heartfelt because of his relationship with his son, there wasn’t enough to build off of. Thankfully, Doctor Fate and Hawkman stepped in at the right time to add a bit more fun and flare to the movie. Brosnan and Hodge worked together perfectly and were born to play these roles. Their chemistry was great and to see both of their powers on full display was truly the best part of the movie. The one thing that felt repetitive was the number of times the JSA fought Black Adam to teach him not to kill anyone. To be able to see Doctor Fate’s power set on screen was a sight to behold. His scenes were by far the best thing in the movie, along with Hawkman’s. Without them, the movie wouldn’t have worked as well, and they saved the second half of this film. Atom Smasher fell flat and Cyclone didn’t have nearly enough to do on the team. Their characters felt underdeveloped and empty compared to Doctor Fate and Hawkman. 

Black Adam feels a bit generic, recycled and a bit outdated, but the action scenes are really strong. Dwayne Johnson fought hard for this movie and for a certain character to be included as well. We should commend him for bringing new characters to the screen who may have no had their time to shine if it wasn’t for him. There are aspects of this film that did work, but ultimately the flaws outweigh the polished action scenes. They left so much to be desired and the world-building wasn’t as strong as other DCEU films. The hierarchy of power didn’t fully change, but a shift was felt. The ending of this film can give many fans hope for the future of the DCEU because Dwayne Johnson is going to fight the good fight for the fans, and that means we are in very good hands.